JOHNNY SAUTER No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Atlanta Recap The goal for the No. 21 team at Atlanta was to bring home a solid finish at a track that isn’t at the top of Johnny Sauter’s list. The Necedah, Wis., native qualified sixth after comfortable practice runs the day before. The team focused on taking care of tires and staying up toward the front of the field. Sauter reported early on that he was lacking grip, but was concerned the track would loosen up as temperatures dropped. The No. 21 ran in the top 10 for all 130 laps, battling with teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman throughout the day. A late caution with four laps remaining gave Sauter a shot at the win, but he ultimately crossed the line in the third position for his best finish in seven starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Quote “I’ve said many times that Atlanta is not one of my favorite tracks, but when you have a day like we had today there really isn’t much to complain about. I’m really proud of the adjustments our team made to try to keep up with the changing track. It’s not an easy thing to do when you have to also be concerned about tire wear. With that said, Joe Shear, Jr., and our Allegiant crew did a phenomenal job making sure we stayed up near the front and had a shot at a win after the way Daytona ended for us. I can honestly say today was a lot of fun and it was nice to have teammates right up there with me. That shows you just how far GMS Racing has come, that we’re able to put guys like Chase (Elliott) and Alex (Bowman) in our equipment and have them running in the top five or top 10 all day.”
Additional Info – Sauter is tied for second in points, seven points behind leader and race winner Christopher Bell
CHASE ELLIOTT No. 23 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Atlanta Recap Atlanta-native Chase Elliott climbed behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Silverado for the 11th time in his career and first time at his home track. Following three strong practice sessions, the No. 23 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado team qualified in the ninth position for the Active Pest Control 200. Elliott reported to the team on lap 27 that he had a flat right rear tire that led to the second caution of the day. The team visited pit road for right side tires and fuel, allowing them to change only left side tires at the end of stage one to regain position toward the front of the field. The team continued to make adjustments to help with the stability of the truck in turn four, staying just within the top 10 throughout the last two stages. Elliott lined up for the final restart in sixth behind his GMS Racing teammates, battling to the line with Alex Bowman for a fifth-place finish.
Quote “It felt good to get back in a truck and I can’t thank GMS Racing enough for giving me the opportunity. They have good equipment and a great team of people in place, so it was an easy decision to get in a truck for them at Atlanta. Our Allegiant team showed a lot of speed throughout practice and the race. It was unfortunate that we had a tire go down early, but we were able to recover from that and run for a top-five finish at the end. I’d love to have another chance to race with these guys again, but look forward to seeing what they can do the rest of this year.”
ALEX BOWMAN No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado
Atlanta Recap Climbing into a truck for only the second time in his NASCAR career, Bowman led the GMS Racing fleet of trucks by qualifying fifth for the Active Pest Control 200. Struggling with a Chevrolet Silverado that was on the loose-side through the opening stages, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt was able to make changes throughout the race that would get the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy “near perfect.” With the final restart coming with only four laps to go, Bowman tried to go three-wide in the middle for the win. Not wanting to wreck teammate Johnny Sauter, Bowman lifted and went on to earn a sixth-place finish.
Quote “Other than the first run of the day, this was a lot of fun. These trucks are so big on momentum and I was trying to use it on that last restart. There was a truck-width there in the middle because I had made it between the two of them. I started bouncing off both of them, and with the 21 being a teammate, I didn’t want to end up wrecking him. I ended up lifting and letting it go. I timed the restart right and tried to get a win. That’s what we’re here to do. I have to thank everyone at GMS and Fraternal Order of Eagles, this was really fun.”
Additional Info – This was the final race before Justin Haley takes over the No. 24 Chevrolet for the 2017 NCWTS season.
KAZ GRALA No. 33 Kiklos Olive Oil Chevrolet Silverado
Atlanta Recap Making his first-ever start on a 1.5-mile track, Kaz qualified 12th for the Active Pest Control 200. Using the opening stage to get a feel for Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kaz ultimately worked his way through the field and found himself within the top 10 during the final stage. Starting in the high line on a restart with 17 laps remaining, Kaz had no where to go when the No. 51 of Kyle Busch cut a tire directly in front of him. Losing multiple positions from the incident, but having no real damage, Kaz was able to use the remaining laps to work his way back up to a 15th-place finish.
Quote “There was quite a bit of a learning curve tonight for sure. Started off the race with the truck a bit loose and the driver a bit lost. About halfway through the race though, I started to figure some stuff out that was very valuable. We were finally working our way up to eighth with just under 20 laps to go. I think we could have finished there but Kyle (Busch) popped a tire on the restart and we were right behind him with nowhere to go. That cost us the finish as far as positions. I feel like I learned a lot though and I will be able to take that to Kansas.”
Additional Info – After the second race of the season, Kaz is currently fourth in the NCWTS point standings, 15 points behind the leader, but has one win and five bonus points towards the playoffs.